Children's environmental health

Training workshop on children's exposure to pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPS), Montevideo, Uruguay, 9 May 2004

Organized in Montevideo, Uruguay by the Department of Clinical Toxicology of the School of Medicine, with the support of WHO and PAHO, this workshop is intended for professionals from the health care, toxicology and environmental sector in selected South Cone countries.

Background

Pesticides render benefits to society, but may represent a threat to the health of humans and wildlife. In exposed population groups pesticides may cause acute poisoning and chronic effects, which tend to be more severe in vulnerable groups, especially in children. Among the pesticides, nine are considered as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) or Persistent Toxic Substances (PTS) and have been targeted for elimination. These are: Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin, Endrin, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene, Mirex and Toxaphene. In spite of the banned or severely restricted use of these pesticides it is believed that all nine are still used in many countries today.

Acute pesticide exposure in children is frequent in many countries. Experienced clinicians are able to manage exposure cases through decontamination techniques, use of antidotes and symptomatic treatment, adjusted according to the age and weight of the child. However, the health care sector is not fully aware of the health and developmental effects that may be linked to chronic, low-level exposure to pesticides and POPs or PTSs. Although the full extent of possible health effects of these persistent substances remains unclear, some epidemiological evidence suggests they affect neurodevelopment, and also thyroid, estrogen-dependent effects and the immune system. The developing brain and nervous system of children may be especially vulnerable to these effects.

This workshop aims at providing information to the health care sector and underscoring its potential roles in preventing and detecting children’s exposure to persistent pollutants. Its specific objectives include:

  • Present and discuss the existing information about the proven and potential impacts of pesticides and POPs/PTSs on children’s health and development
  • Review the clinical management of acute and chronic exposures in children
  • Define the roles of health care providers in promoting the prevention, detection, study and follow-up of chronic pesticides and POPs/PTSs exposure in children
  • Discuss and propose a plan of action and possible strategies for addressing gaps of knowledge and needs identified by the health care sector
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